FHP says careless driving, not protesters, caused a series of I-4 accidents

Protest and accidents occurred during AM rush

TAMPA BAY - Several vehicles were involved in a pair of accidents on I-4 westbound in Tampa Monday morning, at the same time a protest by a group known as "Tampa Light Brigade" was underway.

The lighted sign, on the US-301 overpass, read "YOU PAID MORE TAXE$ THAN B OF A."  The Tampa Light Brigade set up the sign on the overpass around 5:30 A.M. The group has conducted early morning and evening displays on the overpass, and other interstate overpasses, previously. According to traffic reporter Meredyth Censullo , the displays on the US-301 overpass have caused a visual delay during previous morning rush hour demonstrations. A display last week on I-275 in St. Petersburg did not impact the morning commute.

At approximately 6:30 A.M., a pair of accidents occurred on westbound US-301 under the overpass where the demonstration was taking place. Roadblock caused by the accidents backed up traffic on I-4 for several miles, and the congestion caused delays on I-75 as well. 

The lighted sign was taken down at 7 A.M. 

The Florida Highway Patrol released this statement about the protest and crashes:

This morning at approximately 6:30 AM, protestors with electronic signage were present behind a fence and positioned along a designated walkway while displaying their messages to passing traffic on Interstate 4.  The protestors were not positioned on the right-of-way and were operating in a manner consistent with their previous demonstrations. 

During the timeframe the protestors were present this morning, two separate crashes occurred along the westbound lanes of Interstate 4.  The first crash involved two vehicles and the second crash involved four vehicles.  Minor injuries resulted to some of the drivers involved in both crashes and the inside westbound lane of Interstate 4 was closed until approximately 8:00 AM. 

Florida Highway Patrol Troopers responded and investigated both crashes.  While several of the drivers stated they noticed the protestors, motorists are required to operate their vehicles in a careful and prudent manner.  As such those drivers who failed to operate their vehicles in a careful and prudent manner resulting in a traffic crash will be ticketed in a manner consistent with any other crash.

For traffic updates, follow Meredyth @TampaBayTraffic.

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